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History hoopla: Colangelo dedicates wall at St. James Hospital

Jerry Colangelo center looks as new 'Heritage Wall' is unveiled Franciscan St. James OlympiFields campus 20201 S. Crawford Avenue OlympiFields

Jerry Colangelo, center, looks on as new "Heritage Wall" is unveiled at Franciscan St. James Olympia Fields campus, 20201 S. Crawford Avenue in Olympia Fields, IL on Wednesday October 10, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 12, 2012 12:07PM



He is in charge of USA Basketball. He coached the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, founded the Phoenix Suns and Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks, and made a large fortune along the way.

But whenever 72-year-old sports business legend Jerry Colangelo visits Chicago, he always drives by the house his grandfather built in Chicago Heights in 1920 out of spare lumber and train car parts.

Colangelo made another visit to his childhood home in the city’s Hungry Hill neighborhood Wednesday, when he came to dedicate the history wall at St. James Hospital in Olympia Fields that showcases 100 years of hospital history.

“I needed to do that for my benefit, to stay grounded,” Colangelo said of his trip home. “I never forgot where I came from.”

The history wall at the hospital, 20201 S. Pulaski Road, is located near the main entrance. A similar new wall exists at St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights. Both include video screens that display hospital announcements, and photographs and murals documenting hospital history.

Medical “firsts” that occurred at the hospital also are featured on the wall. For example, there’s a photograph of St. James doctors Peter Fagan and John Silliker, who isolated a strain of bacteria that causes fatal diarrhea among infants.

“This wall is a reflection of 100 years of serving the people of the south suburbs and Chicago,” St. James president Seth Warren told a crowd of about 100 people at the dedication.

Hospital officials said the installations cost $115,000. Colangelo and his wife, Joan, donated the money.

To Colangelo, the hospital is more than just a donation recipient. He was born at St. James Hospital in Chicago Heights, and some family members have died there.

“St. James Hospital is an integral part of our lives,” Colangelo said. “Life’s been good, I’ve been blessed in a lot of ways. As I’ve aged, (charity) is where my heart is. I believe in and I’m touched by people in need.”

USA Basketball glory

Colangelo is the chairman of USA Basketball, a nonprofit and the national governing body for men’s and women’s basketball in the United States. It is responsible for selecting, training and fielding U.S. teams that compete internationally and in some national competitions.

Colangelo has been with the organization since 2005. He was brought in a year after the U.S. Men’s National Team underperformed, finishing with a bronze medal in the Athens Olympics.

Under Colangelo’s watch, the men’s and women’s teams won gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2012 London Olympics. Colangelo plans to remain at the helm another four years.

After first saying NBA commissioner David Stern’s idea to return the Olympic basketball team to a 23-and-under roster has its pros and cons, he dismissed the notion, saying the Olympic experience helps develop young talent and establish the game worldwide.

Colangelo credited the group’s success with helping foster such NBA superstars as Kevin Love, Kevin Durant and Chicago’s own Derrick Rose.

“They all want to do it now,” Colangelo said. “The Olympic experience is a smart value to players and fans alike.”

Colangelo said his “heart broke” when he heard that Rose tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

Colangelo praised Rose, saying he has “a good heart and a good head on his shoulders” and still has a chance to compete internationally when the national team comes together for camp next summer.

“Let’s hope he comes back,” Colangelo said. “He has to get back first.”



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